East Carolina vs. Ohio State: Why the Top 25 is a popularity contest

By Amy Daughters -

Have you ever compared Top 25 voters with junior high school girls?

Though the two are about as similar as the weather in Florida versus that in Minnesota, they do share one common bond: They both value popularity at the polls.

Yes, where one group tends to vote the popular kids into student council roles and head cheerleader positions, the other ranks big-name programs ahead of smaller schools which are actually playing at a higher level.

While in either case it doesn’t happen all the time, it happens frequently enough to warrant at least a pause for reflection.

To illustrate, take a look at this week’s AP rankings, where Ohio State received enough points—204 to be precise—to be declared the No. 23 team in the nation. Compare this to East Carolina, not ranked in the Top 25, but earning 44 votes, or enough to make it technically the No. 31 team in the nation.

Is this really a big deal?

Well, let’s compare the two teams straight up: Ohio State is 2-1—it survived Navy 34-17 in the opener, fell to unranked Virginia Tech 35-21 in Week 2 and then destroyed Kent State 66-0 in Week 3.

East Carolina is also 2-1: It walloped FCS North Carolina Central 52-7 in the opener, narrowly lost to No. 21 South Carolina 33-23 in Week 2 and upset No. 17 Virginia Tech in Week 3.

So, the Buckeyes beat two unranked teams—one an independent and one from the MAC—and lost at home to an unranked team from the ACC. Overall, the wins came against two teams that have combined for a 2-4 start in 2014 and the loss to a 2-1 team that, after losing in Week 3, is again unranked.

The Pirates, on the other hand, beat an FCS squad and an ACC team on the road and lost to a contender in the SEC East (again on the road), which went on to knock off the No. 6 team in the nation last Saturday. Overall, they’ve won against teams that are 3-3 and lost to a team that is 2-1 and ranked No. 14 in the latest AP poll.

The question isn’t so much, “Should East Carolina be ranked?” but instead, “Should Ohio State be ranked?”

In other words, just because a team was supposed to be a legitimate contender for the first-ever College Football Playoff AND they’ve won all those championships before, should they be ranked when they’ve not performed as well as other squads against stiffer opposition?

To compare, take a look at the other 10 teams which are 2-1 and received at least one vote in this week’s AP Top 25.

South Carolina (2-1):  The Gamecocks got destroyed 52-28 by No. 21 Texas A&M in the opener, beat unranked East Carolina 33-23 in Week 2 and edged No. 6 Georgia 38-35 last Saturday. They received 718 points in this week’s AP and are ranked at No. 14.

Stanford (2-1):  Stanford dominated FCS UC-Davis 45-0 in its opener, fell 13-10 to No. 14 USC in Week 2 and then blanked Army 35-0 last Saturday. The Cardinal had 560 points in this week’s AP and are ranked at No. 16.

USC (2-1):  The Trojans handled Fresno State 52-13 in the opener, edged No. 13 Stanford 13-10 in Week 2 and then were run over by Boston College 37-31 this past Saturday. USC received 459 points in the most recent AP, coming in at No. 17.

Oklahoma State (2-1):  The Cowboys showed up big in their opener against No. 1 Florida State, losing 37-31 to the defending national champs. They went on to beat FCS Missouri State 40-23 in Week 2 and downed UTSA 43-13 on Saturday. Oklahoma State received 126 points in the AP this week, earning it the No. 25 spot in the rankings.

Virginia Tech (2-1):  The Hokies’ topsy-turvy, early-season ride started with a 34-9 win over FCS William & Mary and soared with the 35-21 upset win over No. 8 Ohio State. Things fell apart Saturday with a 28-21 loss to East Carolina. Virginia Tech received 54 votes in the latest AP, dropping it to what’s technically the No. 29 slot.

Boston College (2-1):  BC opened 2014 with a 30-7 win over UMass and then fell 30-20 in Week 2 to Pitt. This setup the Week 3 shocker, a 37-31 upset triumph over No. 9 USC. The Eagles received a mere 22 votes in the AP poll this week, earning it a No. 36 rank.

West Virginia (2-1):  Another team that showed up big in an overmatched opener, West Virginia played hard against No. 2 Alabama in Week 1, losing 33-23. The Mountaineers blanked FCS Towson 54-0 in Week 2 and edged Maryland 40-37 last Saturday. West Virginia was rewarded with 14 AP votes this week, making them technically the No. 37 team in America.

Virginia (2-1):  The team that ended No. 21’s Louisville’s brief run in the Top 25 last Saturday in a 23-21 decision, is also the team that nearly knocked off No. 7 UCLA in the opener, falling 28-20. Virginia also destroyed FCS Richmond in Week 2, 45-13. The Cavaliers garnered six votes in the most recent AP, securing the No. 40 slot.

Arkansas (2-1):  Arkansas’ only sin this season came via a 45-21 loss to No. 6 Auburn in the opener. Other than that misstep, the Razorbacks annihilated FCS Nicholls State 73-7 in Week 2 and then embarrassed Texas Tech 49-28 in Lubbock last Saturday. All this adds up to three AP votes, tying Arkansas with Arizona and FCS North Dakota State at No. 41.

Louisville (2-1):  Louisville’s 31-13 opening win over Miami (Fla.) earned it a No. 25 AP ranking, a mark that improved to No. 21 after the Cardinals beat FCS Murray State 66-21 in Week 2. All was totally forgotten after Week 3’s 23-21 loss to Virginia, dropping Louisville to two votes and technically the No. 44 slot.

It’s difficult to justify how the Ohio State’s, USC’s and Stanford’s of college football are ranked above the East Carolina’s, Boston College’s and Virginia’s.

All share the same record, but not the same caliber of wins and losses.

Comments (68)

Voters are too married to their preseason votes. Any poll that comes out before mid-October isn’t worth much. And pre-season polls are basically worthless.

Proved right on…Ohio State does not belong in the Top 25…sadly pathetic but then again, too many of these writers are utterly clueless about the sport/need to be a player, coach or something to have some perspective.

Looking at these posts in hindsight…really? OSU had a developing inexperienced O line and a new quarterback. Their 3rd quarterback just beat Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon. Early season polls are a joke. Look at South Carolina…they were horribly unpredictable and average at best. The SEC outside of a few teams Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Auburn recently are pretty poor. People talk about the dominant SEC when in fact it is only one team and sprinkle in Auburn or Georgia. Ole Miss and MSU are pretty much non-factors nationally. Kentucky, Arkansas, Vandy are middle to bottom of the teams in the ACC, Big 10, Big XII and Pac 12. Things wouldn’t really change. Look at A&M, they went from a top 2-3 team in the Big 12 to a top 2-3 team in the vaunted SEC division. The alpha dogs of college football will be the alpha dogs because they can recruit and compete nationally. The Boise State, TCU’s and ECU of the world add spice to the conversation but year in year out it is the Power teams from the Power conferences that will decide the National Champs. OSU’s run this year is unprecedented. I would like to see any other school compete on that stage and at that level with their 3rd QB. Wouldn’t even be close to what they were able to do. FSU barely beat Clemson with a back up for one game in the early fall.

Tim, the point of this article was made at the time OSU was 2-1. Of course, it doesnt make sense now, Captain Obvious. The whole point is that, at the time, Ohio State should NOT have been ranked. Does that matter, now that they had their run? Of course not. They did what they did, and deserve to be champs. But criticizing a time-oriented article like this, in “hind-sight” as you put it, might just be showing that youre doing nothing more than trying to convince people of OSU’s great run, when everyone already knows about OSU’s great run. Next time try to think outside the box, like the author of this article, and realize that there are many facets to college football, instead of JUST, who ends up on top in the end.

Good article! Preseason polls aren’t worth a damn. First poll shouldn’t come out until about week 6 ( second week in October ). I believe voters will keep those “sexy” named schools in the polls if all possible! Please explain how in the coaches poll last week, that Ohio State was ranked one spot ahead of Va Tech, a team that just beat them!! When you have teams playing FCS teams and non power 5 opponents at the being of the season, how do you know how they really gonna be?

OHIO STATE has always been GREAT. Think that’s what you all are failing to realize… Sounds like hating.read our books check our history hommies.

ECU ALWAYS gets the shaft when being compared to so called better football schools but that’s ok. We’ll allow our “ON THE FIELD” work speak for us!!

I am a Buckeye and there is no way we should be in the top 25. We haven’t earned it. Matter of fact, there should be no preseason polls and NO polls until the first week of October. Preseason polls are inaccurate and based on what people who vote think – nothing to go by because no games have been played. Polls are largely deceitful and it is ruining college football.

Go Pirates. Nice article and flattering to our program, but I like being underrated it keeps us hungry. We will be ranked for sure after we beat UNC this Saturday. Then Pro scouts and agents, writers will be lining up for Carden and Hardy, and they will be expected to win the AAC championship anything less will be a disappointment from the same crowd of top 25 Poll voters ready to drop us into obscurity at the first whiff of trouble. It just won’t have the same magic it does now.

Even on 1991, when ECU went 11-1(referees are responsible for thst one loss), the voters didn’t give credit where it was due

I would put Mississippi St., Duke, Penn St., and ECU in and take out Ohio St., Nebraska, Oklahoma St., and Wisconsin

As a VT guy, I’ve had just about enough “OMG what happened to you guys?”… Obviously, if you watched the game you know what happened. ECU has an amazing defensive line, a solid QB, some very good WRs, and an overall pretty good team. So what happened to VT?… They lost to a pretty good team. No shame in that.

I got the same thing after SJSU lost to Auburn…..it wasn’t a case of how bad the Spartans were but how good Auburn is….as the nation will see this Thursday.
Excellent article as always,Amy!!!

Excellent article. Glad someone is putting the truth out there. ECU should be ranked as they have an excellent team. Just keep winning Pirates.

Similar to unranked ECU being favored over ranked UNC, unranked BYU was a road favorite over ranked Texas earlier in the year. Beat them too.

When it gets out of hand is when deliberate pre-emptive bashing starts. Such as the only 45 2014 mentions on ESPN of ‘will not get in the playoff regardless of performance this year’ each being BYU.

Hope ECU can avoid that crap.,

As I have told my kids Life isn’t Fair and sometimes the wrong folks get the breaks but it all works out in the end”.
I agree the Buckeyes don’t belong in the top 25 and time will prove out which teams rise to the top. Sometimes the climb is just tougher for some!

Its good to see someone with logic and perspective who wrote a truthful and forthright article. Too bad it won’t make any difference. ECU has a great football program and deserves credit where credit is due. Just like the guy from VT who wrote the articles about the ECU team before (and after) last weeks game saying that VT got beat by a Tier II football team….. They got best by a BETTER team, I don’t care where you classify them. But just like the polls, ECUs victory over VT will be swept aside in favor of those other Tier I schools no matter how they do on the fiend of play.

Ohio State shouldn’t be ranked sure, but ECU doesn’t deserve to be in the top 25 until we beat UNC, if we’re good enough to be in the top 25 we should be able to beat the team ranked #25. (ECU fan/Alum)

Why label OSU as the prime target in your article? Why always the Big Ten? Lets go outside this. I think people would get tired if the Big Ten always claimed they were so much better in academic research than other colleges. That would be wrong. Maybe East Carolina is good, maybe OSU will not be. They are young.But why put the picture of OSU on the front when other colleges would just be as good?

The author, Amy, picked one team. She lives in Ohio so maybe that’s why she picked Ohio State. There is no vendetta against Ohio State and they weren’t a “target.” Any other Power Five school chosen would probably garner a reaction from their fans too.

Yeah….like Georgia,I mean,how are they still ranked? You know its that ESPN/SEC bias that allows this outrage to happen. Hell,I would have ranked Georgia maybe 80th after that loss on Saturday!!

Hold on… Georgia beat Vanderbilt… They have one win against a top 25 school and its a poor Clemson team. They also lost to a now unranked South Carolina team. AND how about Alabama, they have lost to the last 3 ranked teams they have played, lost to the only ranked team they played this year, yet they are still ranked higher then Michigan State. Pre season bias means everything. Michael, your sarcasm is definitely not validated by any sort of logic.

I don’t think it’s Big Ten bias. VT beat Ohio State. East Carolina beat VT. Therefore, the question is… why isn’t ECU ranked higher than Ohio State? I don’t think it’s meant to slam OSU.

Status is important in the eyes of Americans when making judgement calls. And this is true for college football. Power 5 have lucrative tv contracts and are therefor considered the wealthiest, they are automatically given a leg up even if it is not earned. Same comparison can be made from G5 to FCS. I get so sick of people basing there opinions of these football programs on the status applied to them. I watched NDSU absolutely crush ISU because they have a better team this year, but it will always be thought of as an embarrassing loss for a P5 losing to an FCS.

As a Buckeye fan, I have to agree that we are not a top 25 team. The facts are that polls are subjective and show favoritism to consistency in recent years. Fortunately for teams who exceed expectations like ECU, it’s a long season and they should rise through the ranks if they keep winning. Great article as usual!

They’ll never put ECU over Ohio State in the AP rankings due to the history and tradition of each school. Unless or course osu pulls another 6-6 year. Its unfair, but that is life. It will take multiple amazing seasons to jump the bucks or Any power 5 conference team (in the top 15). The CFP will never have a non power 5 in it unless expanded to 6 or 8. Once again thats not fair but its all about the money. An ECU/Bama semi would not be as watched as a USC/Bama semi game. Sorry but it seems If ECU is ever going to get national respect they will need to move to a power 5 confrence. (Most likely the ACC)

The fact that tOSU is still in the Top 25 shows you there is no favoritsm. The pollsters would love nothing better than to keep the Buckeyes at of the Top 25, if they could reasonably explain their bias against tOSU. Know conference is more favored than the SEC and this mockery of a new system to determine a champion is a perfect example. They took away the only objective part of the poll system and replaced it with more swooning SEC fans, so give me a break about Ohio State being favorited.

Why no mention on how Stanford is ranked ahead of USC? USC goes to the Farm ad beats the Cardinal but then loses to BC, so now after 1 week, Stanford is better than USC???? These polls are biased and just wrong. Once the SEC and ESPN went into business together the illusion of fairness was thrown right out the window.

I don’t think the polls are biased, I just don’t think they can keep up with all the upsets that are happening so early in the season. Teams are positioned based on what they did last year, what players are coming back, how good was the recruiting & on injuries. It has been a wild two weeks & to trying to keep these players energized for every game is impossible. Not sure what the SEC & ESPN has to do with USC & Stanford but okay.

Alabama has lost to the last 3 ranked teams they have played, they have not beat a notable opponent since mid last season, yet they are still ranked higher than Michigan State… That is what ESPN and the SEC have to do with every other team that is not in the SEC.

FYI – ECU/VT was ESPN’s highest rated game on Saturday. ECU draws numbers, contrary to popular opinion.

Someone has to be a detractor.

What is the Top 25 supposed to represent? The Top 25 teams so far this season or the 25 best teams in the nation? No, they are not the same. Did Duke have the best season among all teams in the ACC Coastal last year? Yes. Would I pick Duke to beat all of their 5 division rivals on a neutral field? Absolutely not.

Has ECU played better than Ohio State over the first 3 weeks of a 4-1/2 month long season? Yes. Does that mean ECU is a better football team than Ohio State? Absolutely not.

Pit the Buckeyes and Pirates up against each other and pick any location, and the smart money will be on the Buckeyes to win.

On top of that, using that A beat B, B beat C logic for college football results in some asinine assumptions. Last year, Northern Iowa beat Iowa State, ISU beat West Virginia, WVU beat Okie State, Okie State beat Texas, Texas beat Oklahoma, Oklahoma beat Alabama. By that logic, Northern Iowa is a better football team than Alabama.

What’s funny about football is that if OSU and EC played, the Bucks might Bryanbeat them. Anyone that knows football knows you can’t base a teams value based on one game. Upsets happen, and East Carolina beating Va Tech the week after an emotional upset of #8 Ohio State is fuel for that theory. Not slamming East Carolina, but how would the Pirates do against a schedule like that of the Buckeyes or any top 25 team. Rankings are based in part on team talent level and other factors. If Ohio St played Va Tech five times they might beat them 3 of 5, we will never know.

Hmmm … Ohio State getting the nod over E. Carolina…. Why would that Ever happen… A Storied 150 year Program with 7 National Championship, 7 Heisman trophies, more than a thousand players gone to the NFL… Over a school that’s been around for a cup of coffee with a hand full of winning seasons… No idea, the world is a Crazy place… The injustice!!!

Please give East Carolina a little more credit than a cup of coffee. What you are sharing is a nice history lesson and I enjoyed reading it, but all East Carolina is trying to do is grow their program and get some long overdue respect. CAN YOU BLAME THEM FOR THAT? Geographically, they are between a rock (SEC) and a hard place (ACC), and unfortunately, no one wants to play them because there is too much risk with little to no reward. So what do they do? How can they grow? They will play any team, any time and anywhere. This is their only option. And, they do it very well. They will never have the history Ohio State has, that’s a given. But history is the past, it does not dictate the future. Call me crazy, and you will, but one day I think they will end up getting an invite to the SEC. If you look at geography,fan base, statistics and their recruiting power (against the ACC), it lines up quite nicely. Then they will begin to make history and many people will enjoy reading about them over a cup of coffee.

Nice, I see what you did with that coffee thing. They have been around awhile, and when and if they go SEC they will get the Benefit of the doubt over any BigTen team. But, based on Preseason, and having the 2-time Big ten player of the year… And Heisman contender Braxton Miller started at #5 in polls and East Carolina not ranked…. The current polls look correct… If ECU wins out and OSU loses again they will jump them… Ask FSU if things change with #1 qb on bench…

Preseason polls are stupid.

Any loss or win early in the season shouldn’t be determined by where a team is ranked at that time.

Later in the season you start to know where teams belong.

John- I get what you are saying about the QB problem and how it does have an impact on the team. But this is also where I have little sympathy for OSU. I read a little about recruiting: and what I find is that schools like OSU, Alabama, yada,yada, yada, always get the four and five star recruits, EVERY YEAR! So, I’m thinking that your #2 QB should be just about as good, if not better than your benched boy. This probably extends to three and four as well. East Carolina literally gets the crumbs and has to make a meal. You get Five Star Dining. That being said, I am not feeling your pain.

The only question that needs to be asked is would East Carolina beat Ohio State if they played? I guarantee the folks in Vegas would have the Buckeye’s favored by 10 or more if that was to happen today. Nuff said!

@Ben: Not taken anything away from Michigan St who has a great team this year but your really comparing? In the last 6 years Bama has gone 72-9 (beating Michigan St 49-7 in bowl game) & Michigan St has gone 57-23. My point being I believe Bama has establish itself as a dominating force that wins about 11 games a year, this is why Bama stays in the top 10, mostly the top 5. Michigan St, not so much. Bama has lost to 3 ranked teams, you are correct, #2 Auburn, Oklahoma & now #10 Ole Miss team, highly ranked teams. You fail to mention that Michigan St lost to a now a one lost Oregon team this year & still has a lot to prove in a “downed BIG TEN” season. Bama still has to play Arkansas, Miss St, Texas A&M, LSU & the very scary Auburn Tigers. With that said, ESPN is out to make money, that has nothing to do with ESPN & SEC in-cahoots.

As a lifelong Buckeye fan Virginia Tech outplayed us. ECU outplayed Virginia Tech. Would I like to see them play, no. Shane Carden is the real thing. ECU has great receivers and good offensive and defensive lines. Besides that my Daughter graduated from ECU and if they beat my Buckeyes life would be difficult. Here’s. hoping that both the Buckeyes and Pirates win out!

I like how the article says there’s bias in polling, then uses bias to say after game 3 south Carolina is a contender for the SEC east when in all reality that can’t be known after 3 games.

U are all idiots. ECU will never deserve to be ranked over those teams untill they can prove to consistently compete with these teams. I give them credit they are playinh well as of now but lets face tge facts where are there big wins yes OSU may have struggled early with a completelynew O line and young QB which is eexpected early on they have now found theirselves putting up 50 points in 4 consecutive games and that is why people vote tgem aboves ECU they end up being correct in the end.

Ok now that the season is getting closer to the end I think it’s much easier to see where teams should be ranked and where teams shouldn’t! Not saying ECU isn’t a good program, or a good team, I live in NC now and enjoy watching them. But to say they should’ve been ranked over a team like The Ohio State University was obviously a knee jerk reaction. Growing up in Ohio I’ve been a life long fan of the Buckeyes and supporter of the BIG10. Is the coference down this year? Yes, compared to past years, but not nearly as bad as the non-Big10 fans want to make them out to be. OSU, MSU, Wisconsin all stubbed their toes early but are now playing much better. Nebraska is a really good team who’s only loss came to a tough MSU and they are getting no respect right now! So not only are the preseason polls flawed, they have flaws now. And if we are talking who’s over rated, take a look at FSU! I don’t believe for one second they are one of the 4 best teams right now if you really look at how and who they’ve played. With that being said if u are undefeated in a power five conference you’ve earned the right to be in the play offs. With that being said, it’s really a shame that an institution will sweep so much under the rug (sexual assault, theft, inappropriate public outbursts, etc.) just to win football games. When OSU had one of the best college RBs in the country and he screwed up we dismissed him (Clarrett) and doing so probably cost us another national title! People even football players should have to answer for their actions! Just sayin! And just because the Big10 isn’t the SEC West right now doesn’t mean OSU, Nebraska, MSU, Wisconsin, and Minnesota aren’t good maybe great teams. Also just enjoyed watching Cinncinatti beat ECU, a team OSU beat by the way! I think it’s definitely time to write a retraction and apology to the OSU team u tried to throw under the bus!

I think the question of “Should [The] Ohio State [football team] be ranked?” has, at last been answered. Thank you very much. Go Bucks!!! 2014-2015 National College Football Champions.

How is ECU doing now compared to Ohio State?

Kevin Kelley, you are exactly right. This piece was written four months ago. It shouldn’t have been written at all. Just as the preseason polls mean nothing, neither do week 3 polls or blogs written comparing Jeff Blake University to Ohio State.

The loss to Virginia Tech was a fluke. No other team in the nation could do what we have with a 3rd string QB….death of a teammate……other key injuries throughout the season. We earned it on the field. A CFB playoff. No other team in the history of college football at this level can say that. Buckeye and Big Ten naysayers can take their comments and go cry in a corner. We own it baby. OWN IT.

Go Bucks !! All tOSU needed was a chance to redeem themselves and were granted that chance on December 7th.

Ohio state national champions should repeat but we have to wait and see any day any team can be beaten each school had to go out and get the job done go bucks crazylegs